Know your audience. It’s the first lesson any would-be speaker, let alone journalist, is taught. And it’s the one so often ignored or forgotten in the pitch of the communications battle.

But in the end, it’s so Sixties. So yesterday.

Chicago broadcast meteorologist Tammie Souza, of WFLD-TV, Fox 32 in Chicago, takes the advice to a whole new level. It’s not enough to just know who you are speaking to. It’s just as much a matter of where – and how – you’re doing the speaking. Or, better yet, how the audiences is doing the listening.

Souza broke it all down for a workshop of broadcast meteorologists at a recent annual meeting in Oklahoma City of the National Weather Association.*

In her “Gen-Climate” presentation, Souza broke “the who” down into five well-known demographic groups:


For the four groups most often targeted by TV stations, Souza outlined common characteristics, acknowledging the use of generalizations in all cases and saying she drew from materials provided by three leading journalism and broadcasting research groups – Nielsen, Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc., and Poynter:

Baby Boomers – original youth generation, more set in their ways, logical thinkers, goal-oriented, family values, community involvement, politically involved, most money, optimistic, health and wellness, individual choices; Media use: TV, internet, personal devices, social media 101.

Gen X – sandwich generation, confident, voracious learners, flexible, independent media-savvy, managerial-entrepreneurial, racially tolerant, want to have it all, good with technology; Media use: cord cutters, personal devices, internet, social media, TV.

Millennials – children of baby boomers, biggest generation, personality-driven, can do attitude, hopeful, entitled, wasteful and self-absorbed, value relations, racially tolerant, raised with technology; Media use: personal devices, social media, internet, cord cutters, TV.

Pluralists – Children of Generation X, first 21st century generation, last Caucasian majority, most ethnically diverse, ethnically “color-blind,” positive attitudes, low belief in “American dream,” gender-blended homes, unlikely to use “big box” stores, tech babies; Media use: personal devise, social media, internet.

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Souza told an audience of fellow weathercasters at the climate and weather workshop that while “all the groups are open at a certain level” to welcoming broadcast information about climate change and weather, baby boomers, gen-xers, and older millennials may be especially receptive. She emphasized that it’s critical for TV weathercasters, as for other communicators, to focus on “what are the things they [their audiences] care most about,” and how do they then quench their thirst for relevant information.

From her perspective as a broadcast meteorologist, Souza emphasized, using a limited number of graphics – but with a focus on vivid imagery – is key. Too many graphics can be counterproductive, she said, making the audience feel “as if it were in a grad school course.” TV audiences “don’t want to be lectured to,” she said, advising those communicating on TV about climate and weather to avoid “overloading with facts” and focusing instead on being “a great storyteller.”

*Editor’s Note: The Oklahoma City workshop mentioned here was arranged and managed by the editor of this website.

Photo credit: Tammie Souza presentation on October 17, 2015 to the National Weather Association 30th annual meeting: “Weather and Climate Change: Pieces of the Same Puzzle.”

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...